[Review] Battle for the Purple Islands (O5R); Disjunction

[Hot Mess]
Battle for the Purple Islands (2017)
Venger As’Nas Satanis (Kor’Thalis Publishing)
Levels ??? (something like 3, depending on what system you are using)

A courier has raced halfway across the galaxy to send a holographic message to an old hermit living in a mountain cave infested by shadow shoggoths—it’s time-sensitive, for his eyes only, and concerns the fate of the entire universe. Upon landing on the purple
islands, the messenger was captured by militant talking apes. He managed to escape, but then fell into the hands of a cannibal tribe at the base of the mountain.

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This marks my first trophy review. After defending my honor as a reviewer and a destroyer of small woodland creatures gentleman I received my requested prize, along with assorted other unspeakable offerings in my mailbox. After parsing through it over the holidays I feel confident enough to give it a good grilling (and possibly leverage it into further offerings since my end verdict is no higher then a 5.5).

Battle for the Purple Islands is a 24-page something by Ven’ger As’Nas Santa Clause and is meant as a follow-up (?) to the very entertaining Islands of Purple-haunted Putrescence.
Of all Venger’s thought pellets I have reviewed so far I found this one to be the least coherent but it does have what is probably the most awesome premise Venger has ever come up with (sounds familiar?). Bearing a message from his future self, the party must find H.P. Lovecraft and escort him to a buried super-science museum, there to expose him to an occult art film so he may create a masterpiece of cosmic horror that will surpass all he has done before, fighting cannibal tribes, cultists and monkeys in purple tuxedos with tommy guns along the way.

BUT PRINCE? I hear you say. THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE BEST PREMISE EVAR! THE INCLUSION OF H.P. LOVECRAFT PROVIDES A SORT OF META-COMMENTARY ON THE NATURE OF THE PURPLE ISLANDS AND THE WORLD OF RAZIRA AS A WHOLE. TAKE MY MONAAAY!

The devil, my children, is in the details.

Battle of the Purple Islands doesn’t know what it wants to be and neither will you. The premise is that some years after the characters have presumably explored the initial island things have quieted down somewhat only to resurface an undefined time later, just in time for the adventure. Then why have the purple abominations quiet down in the first place? Lovecraft is not causing them to re-awaken and there is no indication he is meant to stop them in any way.

After this the adventure gives us an expanded “purple destiny” table meant to enrich adventuring on the Purple Isles. It’s a neat concept: Everyone on the Islands randomly rolls a destiny and whenever a character performs acts that are in harmony with this destiny they gain advantage (to a maximum of once per combat). Examples include procreation, raising an army to destroy the Islands enemies or Dying a gruesome death!

A little note about destiny on the purple islands. Venger mentions that “…predestined is different than predetermined [1]. The former can be altered by free will while the latter will
occur despite character agency.

Next up there is a page with random NPC motivations for any potential NPC the players might encounter. There is a 1 in 3 chance any NPC the PCs encounter has forgotten his original motivation and is now assigned a motivation on the random table. The motivations are alright, if a little heavy on the sci-fi (Vendrazi crystal miner, Bounty Hunter or Pilgrim). Some of them don’t really make sense if the randomly determined NPC is not an alien but I suppose you can implement them with a minimum of conversion work.

BotPI might be Venger at his most Vengerest. Expect names such as Perj’ella, Kes Tynor and Xeljanz. I’m getting a pretty heavy Star Wars vibe from this thing. Was Alpha Blue on the mind?

The adventure doesn’t start until about 5 pages in but where exactly it starts depends heavily on ones definition of the word start [2]. BotPI describes three hooks for different player characters (i.e new visitors to the Islands, dudes from Alpha Blue Space Station or Island Veterans). The Alpha Blue Space Station one starts off with a bizarre sort of lottery and a vaguely defined mission, the veterans immediately get captured by cannibals and meet the Herald in a cage and the Newcomers manage to narrowly avoid and overhear a band of armed monkey men about an escaped prisoner and are directed to the mountains.

My first problem with Battle for the Purple Islands is that its an adventure outline, not an adventure. It describes a few factions in terms of their general nature, motivation and provides a sample NPC in O5R/Crimson Dragonslayer stats (i.e hit points, attack Dice, Attack bonus, Armor and Special Abilities [3]) but gives no details as to their numbers, tactics, location and so on. The descriptions are meandering and neglects to focus on the essentials needed to run the adventure. Most of these factions are not even integrated into the very loose table of events that compose the adventure outline.

The PCs either get captured, or attempt to rescue the courier from the Uba-Tuba, a tribe of Cannibals that inhabits the mountains on the Purple Isle. The Uba-Tuba are interesting, with filed teeth and green skin from constant applications of lotion and we are given some weird customs about their sacrificial practices but they don’t really relate to the adventure. “Escape from the natives (especially cannibals) is nearly impossible. At all times, there are two tribesmen standing guard with long bamboo blowguns with darts coated in juices of the dark orchid, which causes temporary (2d4 minutes) paralysis.” Okay, so how do I escape? Can I sneak out under the cover of darkness? Can I disguise myself as one of the natives? Do I bribe a guard? Are the cannibals superstitious? This could have been a great opening section ah la Rambo IV meets The Green Hell. Instead I get this: “Strawberry sludge is eaten as a type of dessert after human flesh is consumed. The
dregs of their strawberry sludge are manually inserted anally in order to combat diarrhea.

There is a random Sorcerer Snake-man NPC that has a 2 in 6 chance of appearing every night on the lookout for human sacrifices and here Venger at least takes the time to explain the purpose of his inclusion. The Sorcerer is meant to kidnap someone in an attempt to sacrifice them to resurrect his hideous Wyrm God. It’s not so hard. Motive, purpose, method. Go!

The rest is more poorly defined. I’m still not sure what the Talking Gangster Apes are meant to do or when they are meant to be encountered. I guess it is up to me. This thing reminds me of Monkey Business.

The closest thing to coherence and actual play is the Brotherhood of the Unquiet Void, a cult of Old Ones Worshippers led by the Sorcerer Kaion Vasus. The writing is irritating because it focuses on details like his minions or his magic items before it deigns to outline the actual purpose behind the Brotherhood. Nevertheless, the adventure makes it clear when you encounter the Brotherhood, how many cultists, its aims (retrieve a special crystal from Lovecraft’s cave so they can detonate a mutagenic nuke over the Island).

There is a description of the cult’s headquarters, a throwaway line of guards on the second floor (there is no map) and a complication if the PCs decide to duke it out (a stray shot can detonate the warhead), making this section the closest to being actually useful. The cultists will attempt to steal the crystal from the cave, and if the PCs are slow in recovering it, “the entire cult is present.” Yeah but how many of them are there?

Lovecraft is protected by Shadow Shoggoths (several of them, the module informs us), who can only be killed by a shadow blade. Where can you get one? Throwaway line about a female demon princess massing an army somewhere on the Isles. Goddammnit. Strip out the nonsense name table, the nonsense rival tribe table and the nonsense purple destiny table and at least devote half a page to fleshing out this faction. Hell, strip out the talking apes and statt out the demon queen instead. You more or less need it to get past the Shadow Shoggoths so one would think describing that instead of a random encounter table without statts at the end of the book would be of importance.

I think I would have cut the adventure some slack if the climax was at least well thought out. Wandering around the museum doesn’t do much but reveal a bunch of inert pieces of modern art without gold piece value or any other sort of interest whatsoever. The most interesting thing that can happen is that you get your soul stolen. The Art film itself is conveyed in simple bullet point style and is flavorful and all: “Dark ambient tones cascade over landscapes of orange fallen cities.” but the end result of having Lovecraft watch the film is utterly intert. He will now write his greatest work…and???

Give us something man. A Lovecraft bossfight. The Chance to follow Lovecraft into the Dreamlands! A mad curator of the museum! A Resolution. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The book ends with a d100 table of pretty good weird/pulp random encounters without stats. Just a line. Sentient and evil glowing green sphere (2 in 6 chance it’s surrounded by humanoid worshipers).  Aircraft graveyard infested with flesh-hungry ghouls. Attractive woman in peril (possibly running for her life).
This is a good table.

I hate giving out bad reviews to stuff people send me but Battle of the Purple Islands is VERY much not my thing. I think the concept has immense potential but the execution just leaves me cold. There are people who derive a lot of value from a stray collection of ideas and take great pleasure in assembling it in a fashion that tickles their fancy. BotPI augments its vastly superior predecessor in minor ways but fails to deliver on its awesome premise. 24 pages for a premise and some tables is not worth it to me. Map. Follow-up. Things to interact with. Guidelines on running the adventure.

As it stands, I cannot in good conscience recommend Battle of the Purple Islands to anyone but a rabid fan of the original. If you are a Venger Fan, you are probably going to get a kick out of the unbridled creativity on display. If you are looking for coherence, look elsewhere.

The dregs of their strawberry sludge are manually inserted anally in order to combat diarrhea. 2.5 out of 10.

Battle of the Purple Islands may be checked out here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/219254/Battle-For-The-Purple-Islands

[1] Miriam Webster defines Predestine as “to destine, decree, determine, appoint, or settle beforehand” while it defines Predetermine as 1) Foreordain, Predestine and 2)  to impose a direction or tendency on beforehand
[2] Miriam Webster defines to Start (intransitive verb) as ”  to come into being, activity, or operation” among other things.
[3] Credit where it is due, it should not be hard to convert to any oldskool system based on those stats, and Venger does provide AC conversion for said systems in parentheses.

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14 thoughts on “[Review] Battle for the Purple Islands (O5R); Disjunction

    1. Speaking of time-travel, I miss the prior millenia when the Vengedeptus Satanicus had not yet lost the Map and Dungeon STCs and await the promised Year of the Black Pyramid when they will hopefully be unearthed once more from the Deep Info-Crypts in the Noctis Labyrinthus on Holy Mars.

      I think that’s your problem here. You have an almost Van Vogtian tendency to overflow with disparate creative ideas every 1000 words and you attempt the Linear Adventure, where coherence, consistency and a tight focus on plot are almost essential to make it not suck. The Hex Crawl or the Nonlinear Dungeon are arenas where exploring and finding weird shit are part of the fun and the very idea of a plot is optional. The format of Battle for the Purple Islands maximizes your flaws and minimizes your strengths.

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      1. These days, I mostly write for myself, as if I was the intended audience… suggestions, guidelines, and flashes of inspiration. That’s the gameable content I’ll use at the table.
        Rest assured that Cha’alt will be written with noobs in mind. And there will be maps!

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      2. I am glad to hear it, maps are a great way to add tactical and strategic depth. A good map can turn even a straightforward combat or infiltration into something complex that can be manipulated by both players and the GM. I liked the Idea of having a fight in a room with nuclear weaponry (or eldritch radiation warhead whatever) but a map would have added so much more in terms of modes of ingress, cover, considerations of ballistic trajectories and shit you can fiddle around with.

        Thanks for explaining the idea behind your creative process. Good stuff.

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  1. No prob. Thanks for the reviews, even if they aren’t always aces. I do learn from your critique.

    Last week I privately made a 2019 resolution – I’m going to learn and eventually perfect my own mapping. So, once I’ve got that shit down, I’ll be making up for lost time… without flushing money down the toilet!

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    1. Criticizing your shit is not easy because I think part of your appeal is that it doesn’t necessarily make sense and is meant to be absorbed by the right hemisphere of the brain or comes from a difference in approach. I read way too much fantasy as it is and as such the fantastic elements are all familiar so I am looking more for excellent context to place them in. I reiterate that I think Dead God Excavation had an excellent premise for a session Zero and this thing had an excellent crazy ass high-concept meta-idea of throwing Lovecraft himself in there but something like that needs a payoff before I can do anything with it that I consider worthwhile. It would be like Mr. Spock suddenly showing up in an episode of True Anal Stories and they just cut to the cumshot with no explanation (did I just give away the plot of your next Alpha Blue module?).

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      1. Haha, you might have. At least Spock will have a stat-block!

        Battle for the Purple Islands has a bit less… firmament because you’re supposed to use it in conjunction with The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. I hope to do another one of those, and that will feature the demon queen, maps, and whatever else seems like a good idea at the time.

        BTW, those talking apes are meant to be a straight up ripoff of The Planet of the Apes gorillas.

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  2. Damn, kind of a bummer. I just picked Islands of Purple Putrescence because it sounded like the best kind of gonzo madness, and from what little I have paged through, it seems great. I do look forward to reading more of these, as I now have to eat my words about Mr. Satanis, and I’m happy to do so

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    1. Some really like the follow up, so perhaps judge for yourself. There are multiple reviews on DriveThru. I think that d100 random table is worth 2 or 3 bucks all on its own.

      You guys might love Gamma Turquoise, not sure. Maybe Prince should review that soon?

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      1. Yeah yeah yeah carry that elf-bale Prince, work that elf-field. y’all are sending me into an early grave. I’ll be delighted to check it out after I do your other two things and the OTHER review copies people have sent me. Let’s hope garbage Januari ends soon!

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